Boston Marathon day always has been one of Tyler Andrews' favorites.
In recent years, he and his buddies from the Tufts University cross country and track teams would run from campus to the house of a teammate's parents near the Mile 24 mark, settle in and watch the race on TV. When the leaders neared Mile 24, Andrews and Co. would sprint about a block to the route and watch them go by, then return to catch the televised finish.
After grilling and eating some burgers, they'd run back to school. "It's always been a really, really fun day," says Andrews, 23. For a Massachusetts guy raised in Concord, the race on the annual Patriots' Day holiday couldn't get much better, but this year will beat even barbecued burgers.
Andrews -- who's never run a marathon -- will make his 26.2-mile debut in the race he's watched since he was a boy. After taking some long-distance zigs and a world-record zag, Andrews will be on the starting line at Hopkinton on April 21 having taken a route all his own.
Certainly, there's no one else in this year's race who: a) holds the treadmill world record for the half marathon; b) has spent the past nine months working and training in Peru and Ecuador; c) received his invitation based on his excellent 10K and half-marathon times; d) is doing about 150 miles per week in preparation; and e) is a marathon rookie hoping to run in the 2:18-2:20 range, which would have put him in the top 25 of last year's race.
He says it's "a little bit intimidating" to make his marathon debut in Boston, yet it's equally exciting. And with so much attention and emotion involved in this year's race after the 2013 bombings, it's just one more variable to add to the equation that includes weather, inexperience and the difficulty of a course that's humbled even the best.
"I think it will be a really interesting experience to be on the other side," says Andrews. "I've been a spectator for so many years, and especially this year there's gong to be a lot of emotion from everybody: the runners, the spectators, the whole city."
Any prediction of a specific time at this point would be as accurate as an NFL mock draft. But Jon Waldron, who coached Andrews at Concord Academy and has been a mentor and sounding board for him ever since, believes Andrews could not be more prepared for his Boston baptism.
Waldron says Andrews is smart, scientific in his training approach and "one of these really rare people that have the ability to dream but then have the ability to put an awful lot of effort into realizing those dreams."
"Tyler may not be as talented as the best runners in the race or as fast as the best runners in the race, but I really believe he's training as much as any of the elite runners," says Waldron. "I mean, his training has reached 150 miles a week and there are not a lot of human beings doing more than that to prepare for a race, so the one thing I'm certain of is he will be prepared. What happens, that's a matter of some chance."
Focused on longer races
Andrews started to take running seriously as a senior at Concord Academy when Waldron came on as cross country coach. After he graduated, Andrews became even more serious about the sport during a year off from school when he traveled, did service work and ran.